Essay writing is not something that is reserved exclusively for students, even though college is the place where most of the people write the bulk of their essays. Professors, lecturers, writers, and a lot of other professionals have to pen down essays from time to time.

It is an important skill, one that helps people develop critical thinking and written English skills, and even if you never have to write another essay after grad school, it’s good to nail it at that point; if for nothing else, then to get stellar grades!

But, what are essays in a nutshell and how can you write a great one?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an essay as ‘a short piece of writing that tells a person’s thoughts or opinions about a subject’. Basically, essays test people on their knowledge of the particular subject matter, comprehension, and the ability to grasp the question and come up with a coherent, well-researched answered, with a dash of their opinion thrown in there for good measure. Also, they are a great way to gauge someone’s written language skills.

How to Write an Outstanding Essay

Brilliant essays are a product of original thinking. They summarize key points and findings but offer a new take on the material. To write a brilliant essay, you need to prepare well. So, before you even consider sitting down to write something, you have to follow a logical progression plan. Here are the steps!

1. Do some extra work

  • Read a couple of other texts by the same author – how do author’s other works compare with the one you are writing about? Does the author touch on the same topic in those other works? Are the author’s texts and opinions consistent or contradictory?
  • Read texts by author’s contemporaries’ – how do they compare? Is the author’s writing in line with the spirit of the time; is he a forward thinker, or a nostalgic trapped in the past?
  • Read literary criticism – What are professionals saying about your set text? Has anyone’s opinion resonated with you, in particular, and why?

This might seem like a lot of extra work but will provide you with key insights you’ll be grateful for once you sit down to write. Of course, there is no need to read everything in full. Key works from contemporary authors, the author’s own most important writings, and a few sharply-penned criticisms will be enough.

2. Always write an outline

It is important to have a sense of direction if you want to write a great essay. Think long and hard about the points you want to cover and write down an outline. Make sure you include an introduction, a chain of thought-out paragraphs that nudge the reader along towards an argument, and a conclusion in which you reiterate and summarize your points, and spell out your verdict.

3. Stay on the point

Some questions are easier to answer than others and you might get tempted to take the easy way out. Don’t do it. People will easily recognize if you decide to dodge a particularly large bullet and just skim over it. Tackle the big issues, especially if you’ve been given a question to answer. Keep in mind that writing a brilliant essay that doesn’t answer the set question is an exercise in futility, especially if you’re a student and the essay is going to be graded.

Don’t know where to start? This base of free essay samples will help you to catch inspiration to begin writing!

4. Include both your research and your opinions

Present an array of arguments and make sure that they are balanced. This will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. It will also show that you took the time to get into the nitty-gritty of the problem by doing more than what was expected and researching the author and the set text in detail.

After you’ve presented all sides of the issue, take a stand. Write down your own opinion of the issue and corroborate it with the evidence and the arguments you’ve presented previously in the text.

5. Think (and write) about the context

This is where your hard work of previously researching the background of the author pays off! You cannot observe a text (or any other work, such as artwork for example) in a complete vacuum. It was shaped by the author’s beliefs, their time, and the political backdrop of that time. Knowing the details allows you to see a wider picture, and may even lead you to outstanding new revelations about the author, the text, or the points that were raised in it.

6. Incorporate citations and a bibliography

It requires a bit of additional effort on your part but incorporating citations and a bibliography into your essay greatly improves readability. It makes it easier for readers to follow your trail of thought, or to check up on some facts you mention in your text. A nicely constructed bibliography makes you look scholarly and demonstrates the level of effort that went into your project.

7. Proofread – and then proofread again

Don’t turn your essay in without being completely certain it is free from grammar and style errors! A spell-checker alone won’t do because it will not catch every slip you’ve made while writing.

So there you have it! These easy-to-follow steps should set you on your way to becoming a great essay writer. Remember, practice makes perfect, so write whenever you get a chance and you’ll soon have the skill honed to perfection!